By Mark Haas
DENVER (CBS4) – As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Denver Broncos will host the first game of the 2016 season (on a Thursday night). The Broncos know who their 8 home opponents are for the upcoming season, and there are certainly some exciting matchups. Here are what I think are the five most intriguing season opening games would be.
Both AFC West teams were improved in 2015 and will be looking to take another step forward and finally unseat the Broncos in the division. The Broncos have won the title five years in a row, so Denver still owns the West until further notice.
4. Indianapolis Colts
The Broncos and the Colts have developed a bit of a rivalry over the past few years, with Peyton Manning coming to Denver, and both teams being perennial playoff contenders. The Colts beat the Broncos last year, but Andrew Luck took such a beating at the hands of the Denver defense he never played again during the season and Indy missed the playoffs.
3. Houston Texans
This game would vault to No. 1 by a wide margin IF Peyton Manning somehow ends up as the Texans QB (one of the teams RUMORED to be a landing spot if he plays another year). Assuming that doesn’t happen, it still has some intrigue with Gary Kubiak taking on his former team, plus the matchup of Von Miller and J.J. Watt. Houston’s Watt is the reigning defensive player of the year, but no one had a better postseason than Miller, so a Week 1 game would be a chance for both to prove they are the best defensive player in the NFL.
1b. New England Patriots
The confetti hadn’t even been cleaned up from Levi’s Stadium before the Patriots were posted as one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LI. The Pats have been to 5 straight AFC Championship games, but missed out on the Super Bowl by 2 points to the Broncos. This has developed into one of the best rivalries in the NFL, and with the Broncos eliminating the Patriots two of the last three years, there is now plenty of ill will on both sides. Round 2 of Brady vs. Brock would be an excellent way to start 2016.
1a. Carolina Panthers
The AFC West and NFC South are matched up in 2016, so the Broncos will visit Tampa Bay and New Orleans, while Atlanta and Carolina will come to Denver, meaning a Super Bowl 50 rematch could happen as soon as Week 1. The NFL may hold it until later in the season, but at some point the Panthers will get their shot at revenge. I list this as a co-No.1 with New England, though, because the Pats game could have playoff implications, while this game will be more about bragging rights. And no matter the outcome, it won’t change the fact the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.